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Questions About the iPad
April 11, 2010 - 9:18pm

Spent this weekend "moving in" to my iPad. Been thinking about what to say, which made me think about what we should be asking.

Most of the debate around the iPad has focussed on the utility of the platform for teaching and learning, the problematic nature of a closed and proprietary system, and the relative merits of the iPad form factor vs. the laptop. Good questions all, but I think perhaps the wrong questions.

What we really should be asking ourselves is:

- Will the iPad catch on with our students?

- What proportion of our students will transition from a computer to a mobile device (including the iPad, Touch, iPhone, and also other smart phones such as Androids) for interacting with media and content?

- How will the total proportion of time spend consuming/interacting with content move from computer to mobile device?

My big takeaway from my first weekend with my iPad is that this device will accelerate and catalyze a shift from computer to mobile. We might have our (legitimate) complaints and dissatisfactions with the iPad and the Apple mobile ecosystem, but our misgivings will not stop students from adopting. The iPad may not be perfect, but it will get better and cheaper. And seeing the iPad as part of an ecosystem, which includes devices, apps, and contents (as opposed to a standalone device) only supports the hypothesis that student interaction with this ecosystem will grow.

So yes, I think we want our learning content to be accessible on the iPad, Touch, iPhone, Android devices, and maybe more others. And yes, mirroring our LMS content on mobile devices is going to be a huge challenge. My first attempts to get all the content that can play through a browser and an LMS to play correctly on an iPad (curricular articles and videos) resulted mostly (and disturbingly) in failure.

This is a case where I don't think we should let student demands (or a lack of complaints) drive our actions. I don't think students will complain much about course content not accessible on their mobile devices because they will have plenty of other wonderful content and apps to keep them busy. I cherish any student requests to make LMS course content available on their mobile devices, as these requests are evidence of relevance. Working to get course content and media to play on mobile devices, including the iPad (and despite what we may think of the device), is one area where we should be out in front.


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